facilitating & hosting

We Need A Language of Listening

A gift in an article of Bob Stilger’s,  from Ascent Magazine in 2008:

When I have a problem or issue that won’t go away, I don’t usually look to someone who will give me advice. I look for someone who will give me listening. Ten years ago, I organized a healing group when my friend Robert Theobald was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. I thought I was organizing the healing group for Robert, but I soon realized it was for all of us. Robert left us eight years ago and our healing group continues to meet. For many years, we met once a week for two hours; our time together now is less frequent and goes deeper. Basically, what we do is listen to each other. No fixing. No advising. Just listening. In this healing group, I cultivated my practice of the language of listening. I begin by reaching inside myself to find my own deep well of curiosity which I then combine with deep respect for those I’m listening to. Physically and energetically, I create a safe and quiet space where I have no need to judge or categorize the things others say. I remind myself to treasure the silence and the space between the words and to ask people to go deeper and deeper into their story.

As Bob writes in the article, “We need a language of listening.”

I experienced the language of listening from PeerSpirit Circle. Imagine sitting in a circle with a group of people, entering into the three practices of listening with attention, speaking with intention, and contributing to the well-being of the whole. A talking piece is used occasionally to slow down the conversation and speak without interruption. There is a centre, something that represents the intention of the circle gathered. Perhaps it is a vase of flowers and a small meaningful object. The centre – like the hub of the wheel – helps us energetically hold the container for the listening and thoughtful speaking.

Imagine how the three practices and the talking piece might shift how you listen. How you might use the centre to give and take energy; creating that safe and quiet space.

When I returned to the office after six days in circle with an amazing group of people it was a rocky adjustment to the typical day in the office. It was all so fast! Fast talking, interrupting, fast thinking, get a word in edgewise if you dare. I missed the slower pace of a check-in round before the faster, more free flowing conversations. I missed the deliberateness of listening with attention, speaking with intention, and contributing to the well-being of the whole. I quickly discovered the invitation waiting for me was to practice the practices throughout my day, not just when I was in circle space. So now I’ll repeat them to myself whenever I head into a meeting, or mid-way through when I feel myself caught up in current social norms.

The bigger invitation opening for me is to do as Bob did, convening a group who comes together to listen to each other. A rich opportunity to practice my circle hosting skills. To offer the language of listening. Putting this out to the universe to see what emerges!


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